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Infinity Blade: Awakening (Page 16)

Again, TEL gave no reply.

“Can you answer any questions on this topic?” Siris asked.

“No,” TEL said. “I am forbidden.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter. I won’t hold myself accountable, just because one of my ancestors might have been a monster. I’m probably part of some illegitimate line.”

Maybe the God King’s own line, he thought with a shiver. Wouldn’t that be appropriate? Him killing his own children to make his blasted sword work?

The rain eventually let up. Siris checked on Isa, then on her coat, which he’d hung on the other side of the fire to dry, and to keep the rain from blowing in on her. The rain had soaked one side, so he switched it around.

When he turned back, she was looking at him. He started, nearly dropping the coat. She blinked, then grimaced, glancing down at her side. TEL had tied a bandage there, which she prodded at.

“You should be resting,” Siris said.

“I am resting,” she said. “This is hardly bleeding at all. That shouldn’t be possible.”

“TEL does fine work,” he said, nodding toward the golem, who sat in the rain, looking up at the stars. He hadn’t changed positions in two hours.

“I guess he does.” She sounded skeptical.

“You thirsty?”

“Yes,” she said. “Horribly so. But first, I . . .”

“Yes?”

There was something to her voice. Something soft, something intimate. “First, I’ve really got to pee.”

He blushed. “Oh, right.”

He fetched a pot for her, then went off into the bamboo to give her privacy. When he came back, she was dressed and sitting up by the fire, warming her hands.

He sat down across from her.

“I’m hoping I don’t need the rope treatment tonight,” she said.

“No,” he said. “You came to help when I was fighting in the river, even though you were unarmed. You could have let those creatures kill me, then stolen the blade from them.”

“Steal from a pack of wild slaughter daerils?” she said. “Easier to get it from you.”

He snorted. “I doubt they knew what it was worth, and you’re sly enough. When they went to sleep, you’d have had that sword and been on your way in under a span.”

“You have quite the opinion of my skills.”

“It’s out of regard for my own,” he said. “You almost killed me twice. I’d hate to assume someone incompetent could manage that.”

She smiled.

“The fact remains,” he said, “that you didn’t have to rush in to help me. You did. Saving my life negates an attempt on it, so you’re forgiven. That is, assuming I can get a promise from you. No more trying to kill me, all right?”

“All right.”

“And you won’t try to steal the blade while I’m sleeping?”

“I won’t,” she said. “Or even while you’re awake.” She paused. “But if you die and I can’t do anything to prevent that, I’m still taking the sword.”

“Fair enough. Better you than one of the Deathless.” He held out his hand beside the fire, toward her.

She paused, then shook it.

“Get some sleep,” he said, rising to go fetch some more wood.

“You too, whiskers,” she said with a yawn. “We’re less than a day’s hike from Saydhi’s estate. You’ll need your strength tomorrow. Be sure to get some sleep.”

“I will,” he said.

He proceeded to stay up the entire night making sure the fire kept going and she remained warm.

Chapter Seven

“THE REAL SECRET to good cooking . . .” Isa said, lifting the spoon to her lips.

“Is … ?” Siris asked, sitting across the fire from her.

She took a sip.

“Well?” he said.

She licked her lips, held up a finger, then tossed in another pinch of spices.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” he said.

“Don’t be an idiot,” she said. “The secret is patience.”

“Huh. I just failed that one, didn’t I?”

“As soundly as if you’d brought a salad fork to a jousting match.” She smiled.

“Pshaw,” he said. “Jousting would require riding one of those things.” He eyed her horse, munching on some foliage on the other side of their camp. A few days back, they’d carefully moved to a location that was more secure. They hadn’t spoken of the fact that Siris continued to stay in camp with Isa, as opposed to going to fight Saydhi’s champions.

He would go eventually. He hadn’t lost his resolve. However, if he failed, it would mean his life—and he wanted to make sure Isa was well enough to reclaim the Infinity Blade if things went poorly. Besides, he wanted to attempt a few things on his list, like cooking. So far, he was confident that one was going to move to the list of things he did not enjoy.

“They’re not so bad,” she said. “Horses, I mean. You just have to know how to treat them.”

“The same could be said of a persistent rash,” he said, “You know, I considered—for just a moment—using the disc on him.”

“Nams?” she said with a start. “You were going to draw the heat from my horse to start a fire?”

“Yeah.”

“I’d have killed you.” She said it frankly, though she blushed. “We’ve been through a lot together, Nams and I. More than you and I have, whiskers.”

“Well, TEL indicated he didn’t have enough heat in him for it to work. Makes sense to me. I’m pretty sure he has a heart made of iron, blood as cold as a mountain snow.”

She raised an eyebrow.

“I saw him eat a baby once,” Siris added. “And not even one of the loud, crying types. A sweet giggling one. Pure evil, I tell you.”

She shook her head, sipping the soup. “You’re insulated.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“No?” she said. “Not a word in your silly language?”

“It’s a word,” he said. “But it doesn’t mean what you think it does.”

“In … insatiated? Insociated? A word that means you say stupid things and are never likely to change.”

“I don’t think we have word for that.”

“I’m sure I knew one,” she said. “Stupid language. It doesn’t have enough words.”

“How many words does your language have?”

“Many. Many, many, many. We have seventeen different ways of saying a person is no longer hungry.”

“Sounds complicated.”

“Nonsense. You just have to be patient.”

“I’m beginning to wish you hadn’t learned that particular word.”

She grinned, getting out bowls and dishing out the soup. “You are a patient man, Siris of the Lost Whiskers. Did you not spend twenty years practicing with the sword? All to achieve a single important goal? That is patience.”

“I’m not sure it was,” he said, taking the bowl. “I only did all of that because it was expected of me. Once I started, it built upon itself. Nobody would let me do common things, like wash clothing. They’d insist on doing it. I needed to train. Keep training. Always. At a feast, I couldn’t eat the good foods, because everyone was watching.”

“I watch you every morning, with that sword, working until you sweat. That is not the mark of an impatient man.”

“I train because it… it’s what I am. I can’t explain it. It’s as natural to me as breathing. You wouldn’t call a man patient for reaching the ‘milestone’ of continuing to breathe for twenty years straight.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “Sometimes, continuing to breathe is a tough enough prospect.” She grimaced at her bandage. The wound was healing, but slowly. Getting a sword though the stomach wasn’t the sort of thing you just shrugged off.

Unless you were Siris. He looked down at the God King’s ring on his finger.

Isa followed his glance. “We haven’t discussed,” she said, “what I said. About the ring . . .”

“It’s all right,” he said, stirring his soup. He took a sip. It was fantastic. How did she do that? It was just boiled leaves and chopped-up bamboo shoots. “I figured it out.”

“You did?”

“I must be of the lineage of one of the Deathless. That’s why I can use the rings. It’s why the God King was interested in my bloodline.”

“Wait. He was interested in your bloodline? Why?”

“I haven’t mentioned it,” he said. “But I’m pretty certain he set up the system of Sacrifices. It might… it might be that my family is the reason for his entire dominance of this area. It’s why he treated people with such tyranny—to encourage my bloodline to come fight him.”

“This changes everything,” she whispered.

He frowned at her.

“Deathless rarely have children,” she explained. “Some say that the children of a particular Deathless can challenge them, steal their immortality. Whatever the reason, there’s an unspoken rule among them. No children. They . . .”

“What?”

“It’s said that long ago, when they first seized power, the Deathless slaughtered everyone who was related to them.”

He fingered the Infinity Blade, buckled at his side. Well, that means I’m probably not related to the God King, he thought. He tried to get me to join him. He succeeded in getting one of my ancestors to join him. He’d not have kept us around if we could threaten him.

That relieved him. Though, one of the Dark Thoughts—as he’d started to think of them—crept into the back of his mind. A panicked sense that felt Isa knew too much, that she needed to be taught to hold her tongue, to fear him.

These things weren’t really thoughts. They were more basic than that. Instincts. Impulses. He fought this one down. They came to him frequently these days. Too frequently.

The conversation hit a lull. As he was finishing his last bites of soup, the nearby bamboo stalks rustled. He immediately stood, hand on sword, until a small form slipped out of the forest.

TEL had turned himself into dark cloth using Isa’s coat, and in doing so, had shrunk down to about three feet tall. He still had gemstone eyes.

The golem entered the clearing of their camp, then bowed. It took orders from Siris—so long as those orders didn’t violate previous commands. Siris didn’t trust the thing, particularly after Isa had warned him that the Deathless had ways of communicating over great distances.

But if TEL was a spy, he already knew the most important fact about Siris—namely where he was. Siris faced the option of either destroying the little golem or putting him to use. TEL had ignored orders to “go away” and “stop following me.”

He didn’t feel like destroying the thing. He just… well, he couldn’t. It hadn’t done anything against him, not overtly.

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